Yep, About 100 months ago we started “Homeless Issues.” We missed some times and added specials at other times.
“Man is not the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” …… Mr. Marquez of Lakota and white Mountain Apache heritage.
An Excerpt from the book “The Journey To Hangtown Haven” by Art Edwards.
Reflections Beside The Campfire
A glimpse into the heart and soul of Hangtown Haven
By Rebecca Nylander (Now Green)
I sit looking around the campfire that I share with my community who are my family. I am reminded of the many amazing stories of which I have been a part. I live in a family of nearly 40 brothers and sisters. Many other members of my family have come, shared moments of life and moved on. Some of us have lived together for most of a year. The warmth of the fire reminds me of the warmth of family members resulting from the struggles we have shared. Our family has experienced triumphs and defeats. But mostly I am reminded of the hope that a simple community can create and the support that is offered and the grace received. Love wells up and endures in a population that many outsiders wish would simply disappear. Let me share a little perspective about myself and some of the stories of my family members.
I came here after the tragic loss of my mother and my home. I was a lost soul deep in grief with nowhere to turn. What I found here at Hangtown Haven was a family, a faith and a home. Feeling safe with people who cared about me. I could finally get my feet under me. I developed a passion for what Hangtown Haven does and discovered that by caring for others, I could help heal myself. On top of the safety and security here, there is a purpose and a reward greater than I could imagine. I became a member of the Community Council that leads the Haven.
M is a gentle spirit who is plagued with such severe arthritis some days he can barely move. One Saturday we happened to receive an abundance of donations (an extremely rare occurrence due to two local weddings), which were brought to the cam by people in the community. M pulled me aside and mentioned a family living just u the street with two teenage boys. He said they were having a very hard time financially and had no food. M went to talk with this family and about and hour later the father arrived. We were able to fill his car and trunk with food. The man went away in tears and all he said was: “Imagine this help from a homeless camp.” I later found out that M had used his social security money to pay that family’s back rent so they didn’t lose their home.
R is a jolly soul who served our country in the Air Force in Viet Nam. He struggles with alcoholism but has done better in controlling his addiction at the Haven than he ever was able to do surviving on his own. In the past year he has had two open-heart surgeries. The most recent surgery occurred about three months ago and resulted in a stint being placed in his heart. When the doctors opened his chest, they found that R had 99% blockage of blood flow. As a family we watched and held our breath waiting for him to return to us; fortunately he did. R always has a witty comment or a somewhat off color joke to offer. But, when appropriate, he’s also the first one to say, “Cut the unnecessary hype you guys and be serious.”
C is a young man who came to us fresh out of jail. He had been a frequent guest there and was cocky and full of himself. We worried about him, but after he was with us for awhile he started to learn what the Haven was about. Consequently, he began to step outside of himself and to take great pride in having a neat, well-kept living area. During the summer he even signed up for college. He is an amazing example of determination who has also turned out to be quite a gentleman. He always walks one of the ladies to the store or the bus stop to make sure she gets there safely. He has become more humble and always has a smile for everyone.
E is an older gentleman who has experienced more tragedy in his life than anyone should have to endure. He lost his wife and child to a drunk driver some years ago. This was followed by four other tragic losses.
We often hear G screaming with the night terrors from which he still suffers. G once made a living as a taxi driver, however due to the effects of diabetes he is now unable to drive or see well enough to do his own shopping. He is basically unable to leave camp without escort.
JW is Bi-polar Schizoid-affective. She requires a constant source of outside stability. She also must be watched constantly as her mood can swing drastically from giddiness to sobbing to aggressive behavior. She has found a great deal of support at Hangtown Haven and always finds a person willing to listen to her or just hold her if she is upset. There seems to be no shortage of comedians when a silly distraction is needed. She’s our Pillsbury dough baby, as a gentle poke to her belly will result in giggling.
T is one of our strongest individuals both physically and mentally. He was released from prison after serving fourteen years for a commercial burglary during the “three strikes” days that applied to all crimes. He came away from that experience as one of the most grateful and thankful men I have ever known. He volunteers his time and is always willing to lend a hand. If there is work to be done that is where you will find him. T also reminds me that the fastest way for me to have a good day is to start it by putting a smile on my face. About a month ago T suffered a stroke while working for a man that pays fifty dollars a day for 10 hours of hard labor, a bit below minimum wage. T will take work when he can find it.
S is a nineteen-year -old woman with a severe learning disability who grew up with a mother who suffered from addiction issues and had a severe learning disability. In spite of this she earned her certificate of completion from El Dorado High School. She has chosen to continue her education by enrolling in adult education classes. She loves working with the elderly and has been seeking employment in that field.
JA came to Hangtown Haven after spending three years in prison for an alcohol related offense. If you had asked him four years ago, he would have told you that he planned to die an alcoholic. Now he is a member of the leadership council of HTH. He is deeply involved in service at Green Valley Community Church and has never missed a service. He is a strong advocate for a clean and sober lifestyle and offers compassion when needed and tough love when necessary. He was baptized on August 25th with the other members of the Community Council at Hangtown Haven.
H was a hopeless drunk who suffered from a mental health issue stemming from physical abuse suffered as a child. As I write this, he now has been sober for over 100 days and spends a lot of time helping a friend on his farm. His mental health issues have stabilized and he is now calm and always quick to tease and poke fun, reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously. He is also quick to offer a reminder that this is our home and we must treat it as such.
L came stumbling into the Haven after being viciously raped and beaten in a nearby illegal camp. She was nearly out of her mind, bewildered, fragile and lost. I will never forget the look on her face when she asked us: “Do you want me?” That is a question no human being should ever have to ask. She is newly, but firmly, committed to her sobriety. In spite of her incredible inhumane experience, she reaches out to every lost soul she can find always with an offering of love and hope. She usually approaches life at top speed and always has a vibrant smile. L cannot go back out into the hills vulnerable and alone. L was baptized on August 25th with others from Hangtown Haven.
K has been and will always be remembered as a part of the heart and soul of HTH. He and his dear friend both came to each other and to the Haven by grace and determination. K who came to Placerville in search of his sister ended up finding a much larger family. He has offered wisdom, support and leadership to HTH since its inception. K is a staunch protector of our family. He is also the first to remind us that we have rules and standards and that they must be adhered to. He was baptized on August 25th with the rest of the Community Council for the Hangtown Haven. He is now the leader of our council and loves working with Art.
LR is currently in recovery. He came from a tough background. He has had very little support in his young life and left his family to find his own way. Like many of our residents, he came to us with very little connection to the world around him. He found our family, and became connected to human beings again and to the outside world. He is a gentle giant and I often marvel at the sight of his large framed man embracing a smaller frame of someone in need of comfort and love. He has worked in the field of care giving and was devastated when a client and good friend passed away.
F possesses a brilliant mind and is a member of the Community Council. He regularly attends Green Valley Church and typically walks out of church every Sunday with a word or phrase of deep meaning for the week. He is the conscience for the Community Council and keeps us focused on our mission and role. He pours his heart and soul into Hangtown Haven and seeks ways to inform the outside world of who we are and what we represent. As our website designer, he asks all interested parties to visit www.hangtownhaven.org.
CD is a young man who suffers from severe learning disabilities and mental health issues. His father committed suicide when he was young and his mother turned to drugs and alcohol. He is another kind soul who, when he came to live with us, illustrated what hopelessness can look like. He is now functioning well in the aura of acceptance he has found at the Haven. He has even begun to thrive. He is now in school seeking to obtain his GED.
B is an alcoholic who is in recovery. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. When he first arrived, the camp was a bit unsure about this young man. He has turned out to be a great cook, a great friend and great communicator. He relies on our support and friendship to alleviate his fears. He has truly made himself a part of our family. He was baptized on August 25th with others from our camp.
DM is a great kid. Due to an unfortunate accident when he was 17, he has no short term memory. We often tease him that having him in camp is like the movie 50 First Dates. He is sweet and friendly. If you ask him when he was born, and he remembers that he has an ID he will pull it out and check. He doesn’t leave camp without a buddy at his side because he gets lost easily. He is always willing to accompany one of the women on a day of errands so that she isn’t alone.
JD is a paranoid schizophrenic who also suffers from severe sciatic pain. There are days that she is totally unable to walk. She relies on us, her family, to check on her and give her food. She also needs to be watched to make sure she doesn’t become confused. When she is confused, there must be people around to keep her safe.
DA struggles with depression and addiction. He has found a family who does not judge and has been with him to help stabilize his me3ntal health and aid in keeping him clean and sober. He is helpful around camp and is often quick to offer a grin or a poke in the side.
C judge and has been with him to help stabilize his mental health and aid in keeping him a clean and sober. He is helpful around camp and is often quick to offer a grin orf
SR is also Bi-Polar Schizoid-affective. She came to us essentially as a zombie. She had been over-medicated and actually overdosed on her medication due to an erroneously worded prescription. We ended up calling an ambulance for her, and she hospitalized for two weeks. She is back now and very fearful about her future. She baptized in August 25th with others from Hangtown Haven.
D is diagnosed as Bi-Polar. She is separated from her family right now while she works on her mental health. She is always quick to play a game of dice with anyone who needs company or a distraction . She has an infectious smile and is always a voice or those who are in need.
CH is a mother struggling to start over. She is clean and sober but has been the victim of domestic violence. She helps prepares meal regularly and does shopping for ose who can’t go themselves. She has immersed herself in volunteering at Green alley Church and has participated in several of the Life skills classes offered there.
JC is approaching 180 days clean and sober. If you had asked anyone in Placerville 190 days ago to list the town drunks this gentleman’s name would have been high on the list. Now he is a volunteer at the Community Resource Center. He is our camp clown, always laughing and making those around him laugh. He is kind as well as funny.
SM suffers from major depression. She came to us after being in a transition-house for about six months. If you ask her now, however, she will tell you that she is happier than she ever has been. She will also tell you that we live in a place of miracles, a place where there is a home without walls, a family without strife and hope without bounds. She smiles more than she frowns, laughs more than she cries and gives more than she takes.
P was a local business owner for 19 years. She struggles with PTSD and severe allergies that make being inside difficult and uncomfortable. She has a quiet dignity that makes those around want to sit up a little straighter.
I look around and I think of those who have come and gone. I think of the miracle that is Hangtown Haven and the miracles that have occurred here. I pray that miracles can continue to abound in Hangtown Haven, but now we must discuss the reality.
Why have we been told that by November 15 we must shut down the camp and leave this spot we call our Haven? I wonder what the people in power expect to happen. It should be obvious that if our home is taken away, the problem of homelessness is increased, not abated. The decision-makers are taking a solution and turning it back into a problem. The courageous men and women who have fought to come this far deserve better than to be cast aside and forgotten. They have fought incredibly hard and appreciate every ounce of support they have received along the way. We pray that everyone who has supported us or wants to stand with us will join together and help find an answer. Four weeks is a short time for a miracle to occur that will keep our home alive and our family together.
There is no logical reason that we can identify that would justify closing Hangtown Haven. Is the reason that we have become successful, that we have taken derelicts off the street and brought many back from addiction? But that doesn’t make sense. If we had failed or made the homeless situation worse, closing our camp could be justified. There is a lot in life that I still don’t understand.
If I, Ron Sachs may put in my 2 cents worth.
I have surmised that the opposition to Hangtown Haven existence is from a group of persons who need to feel that they are better than others, and a community of investors who felt that their wallets were in jeopardy. All this at the expense of the “least of these our brothers and sisters.”
Bless us all.
All Nomadic Shelter volunteers and prayfully new volunteers, be aware and attend the Nomadic Shelter Work shop and introduction class being held Sept. 29th at 6:00 PM, at Federated Church. Contact Schelly Cartee …NomadicShelter@Yahoo.com..